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Main article: Broadband

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 94

Max Q: SpaceX starts building out its production Starlink constellation

02:11 | 18 November

There’s literally a lot more stuff in space than there was last week – or at least, the number of active human-made satellites in Earth’s orbit has gone up quite a bit, thanks to the launch of SpaceX’s first 60 production Starlink satellites. This week also saw movement in other key areas of commercial space, and some continued activity in early-stage space startup ecosystem encouragement.

Some of the ‘New Space’ companies are flexing the advantages that are helping them shake up an industry typically reserved for just a few deep-pocketed defence contractors, and NASA is getting ready for planetary space exploration in more ways than one.

1. SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites

The 60 Starlink satellites that SpaceX launched this week are the first that aren’t specifically designated as tester vehicles, even though it launched a batch of 60 earlier this year, too. These ones will form the cornerstone of between 300-400 or so that will provide the first commercial service to customers in the U.S. and Canada next year, if everything goes to SpaceX’s plan for its new global broadband service.

Aside from being the building blocks for the company’s first direct-to-consumer product, this launch was also an opportunity for SpaceX to show just how far its come with reusability. It flew the company’s first recovered rocket fairing, for instance, and also used a Falcon 9 booster for the fourth time – and landed it, so that it can potentially use it on yet another mission in the future.

2. Rocket Lab’s new room-sized robot can don in 12-hours what used to take ‘hundreds’

Rocket Lab is aiming to providing increasingly high-frequency launch capabilities, and the company has a new robot to help it achieve very quick turnaround on rocket production: Rosie. Rosie the Robot can produce a launch vehicle about once every 12 hours – handling the key task of processing the company’s Electron carbon composite stages in a way that cuts what used to take hundreds of manual work hours into something that can be done twice a day.

3. SpaceX completes Crew Dragon static fire test

This is big because the last time SpaceX fired up the Crew Dragon’s crucial SuperDraco thrust system, it exploded and took the capsule with it. Now, the crew spacecraft can move on to the next step of demonstrating an in-flight abort (the emergency ‘cancel’ procedure that will let astronauts on board get out with their lives in the case of a post-launch, mid-flight emergency) and then it’s on to crewed tests.

4. Virgin Galactic’s first paying customers are doing their astronaut training

It’s not like they’ll have to get out and fix something in zero gravity or anything, but the rich few who have paid Virgin Galactic $250,000 per seat for a trip to space will still need to train before they go up. They’ve now begun doing just that, as Virgin looks to the first half of next year for its first commercial space tourism flights.

5. TechStars launches another space tech accelerator

They have a couple now, and this new one is done in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, along with allied government agencies in The Netherlands and Norway. This one doesn’t require that participants relocated to a central hub for the duration of the program, which should mean more global appeal.

6. NASA funds new Stingray-inspired biomimetic spacecraft

Bespin’s cloud cars were cool, but a more realistic way to navigate the upper atmosphere of a gaseous planet might actually be with robotic stingrays that really flap their ‘fins.’ Yes, actually.

7. Blue Origin’s lunar lander partner Draper talks blending old and new space companies

Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos announced a multi-partner team that will work on the company’s lunar lander, and its orbital delivery mechanism. A key ingredient there is longtime space industry experts Draper, which was born out of MIT and which is perhaps most famous for having developed the Apollo 11 guidance system. Draper will be developing the avionics and guidance systems for Blue Origin’s lunar lander, too, and Mike Butcher caught up with Draper CEO Ken Gabriel to discuss. (Extra Crunch subscription required)

 


0

Watch live as SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites with a thrice-flown Falcon 9 rocket

15:35 | 11 November

SpaceX has a big launch coming up this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida – a Falcon 9 will carry a payload of 60 of its Starlink orbital communications satellites to space at 9:56 AM ET (6:56 AM PT). The Starlink satellites are the first non-test group of SpaceX’s new constellation heading up en masse, with the aim of helping set up a network that will eventually provide global high-speed Internet connectivity.

SpaceX has already sent up 62 Starlink satellites in total, across two test batch launches: Two launched in February 2018 from Vandenberg in California, aboard a rocket that was also transporting a satellite called ‘Paz’ for a client, and 60 launched in May of this year, a large test batch that was used to trial ground-based communications, as well as controlled de-orbiting mechanisms. Of those 60, 57 satellites are still in orbit while 3 became non-operational after launch.

This mission will set up this new batch of 60 Starlink satellites in orbit, which feature increase spectrum capacity and construction that features 100% “demisability,” which means that at the end of their operating life they’ll burn up completely upon controlled re-entry to ensure there’s nothing left behind once they’re no longer in use. This is one of six launches of Starlink satellites that SpaceX says will lead up to the launch of its service across the U.S. and Canada, and one of 24 launches that will enable global high-bandwidth broadband service.

Besides setting up the foundation for its global satellite internet network, this launch is noteworthy from the perspective of SpaceX’s focus on re-usability. The first stage for the Falcon 9 used here previously flew on three separate missions, a record for a Falcon 9 booster in terms of re-use, and the fairing used to protect the payload also flew before on the Falcon Heavy Arabsat-6A mission launched earlier this year. SpaceX also plans to land the booster again, and it will attempt to recover the fairing once again using its sea-borne catcher vessels in the Atlantic.

The launch window at 9:56 AM ET is instantaneous, and SpaceX should begin broadcasting the live stream above about 15 minutes prior to that.

 


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Kepler achieves a world first for satellite broadband with 100Mbps connection to the Arctic

16:00 | 7 November

Small satellite startup Kepler has done something never before accomplished with satellite-based broadband connectivity: providing a high-bandwidth the Arctic. Kepler’s nanosatellites have successfully demonstrated achieving over 100Mbps of network speed to a German icebreaker sea vessel that acts as a mobile lab for the MOSAiC research expedition.

This is the first time ever that there’s been a high-bandwidth satellite network for any central Arctic ground-based use, Kepler says, and this connection isn’t just a technical demo: It’s being used for the researchers in the MOSAiC team, which I made up of hundreds of individuals, to transfer data back and forth between the ship, and shore-based research stations, which improves all aspects of working with the considerable quantities of data being gathered by the team.

Bulk data transfer has been a challenge for a long time for science expeditions at either of the Earth’s poles. It’s impractical to do terrestrial high-bandwitch networks in these locations, and traditional satellite-based networking has not been able to achieve these kinds of speeds in these locales, either. Kepler is uniquely servicing the poles with two low-Earth orbit satellites are on a polar orbital trajectory, which means they can provide these scientists, which include a multidisciplinary team intent on studying the impact of climate change up close at the location where its effects are perhaps most dramatic, or at least felt earliest.

On the icrebreaker floating research ship, Kepler has demonstrated 38Mbps down, and 120Mbps up, which is coincidentally above the max recommended specs that Google has posted for its highest quality Stadia game streaming. But this is for science, not gaming. For science.

 


0

Solar based ISP startup Tizeti launches 4G LTE network in Nigeria

10:15 | 7 November

Nigerian internet service provider Tizeti has launched its first 4G LTE network.

The Y-Combinator backed startup — that uses solar powered towers to deliver net connectivity — has built its premier 4G capable tower in the city of Port Harcourt, where Tizeti will offer its first 4G and ISP services.

The company operates primarily in Lagos, Nigeria’s unofficial business capital, and expanded this year to Ghana. Port Harcourt is the fifth largest city in Nigeria located in River State, another commercial hotspot for the country.

Tizeti plans to take its model to additional West African countries in 2020, according to CEO and co-founder Kendall Ananyi.

“We leverage inexpensive wireless capacity and plummeting cost of solar panels to create a low capex and opex network of owned and operated towers,” Ananyi told TechCrunch.

“We’re able to offer customers unlimited internet at 30 to 50% the cost of traditional mobile data plans,” he said.

The price for a Tizeti unlimited plan is 9,500 Nigerian Naira per month, or around $26. The startup has 1.1 million unique users and packages internet services drawing on partnerships with West African broadband provider MainOne and Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi. 

On the addressable market for Tizeti after its latest move, “Not everyone’s gonna sign up but we know we have 20 million in Lagos and 1.8 million in Port Harcourt; so even if we get 10%, that it’s a huge number for us,” Ananyi said.

A lot of businesses and tech startups bank on Nigeria’s numbers, since it has both Africa’s largest economy and population, at 200 million.

Tizeti raised a $3 million Series A round in 2018 and has built a suite of internet driven products to capture market share. In addition to ISP services, it launched a Skype-like personal and business enterprise communications service — WiFCall.ng— in April 2019.

Tizeti WiFi CallTizeti could shift the connectivity equation in Africa’s key tech hubs, such as Nigeria, where high levels of startup formation and VC investment are still hindered by weak internet stats.

Though Africa (primarily Sub-Saharan Africa) still stands last in most global rankings for internet penetration (35 percent), the continent continues to register among the fastest connectivity growth in the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa countries with the highest number of internet users include Nigeria (123 million), Kenya (46 million) and South Africa (32 million).

 


0

Max Q: International Astronautical Congress 2019 recap edition

22:31 | 28 October

Our weekly round-up of what’s going on in space technology is back, and it’s a big one (and a day late) because last week was the annual International Astronautical Congress. I was on the ground in Washington, D.C. for this year’s event, and it’s fair to say that the top-of-mind topics were 1) Public-private partnerships on future space exploration; 2) So-called ‘Old Space’ or established companies vs./collaborating with so-called ‘New Space’ or younger companies, and 3) who will own and control space as it becomes a resource trough, and through what mechanisms.

There’s a lot to unpack there, and I plan to do so not all at once, but through conversations and coverage to follow. In the meantime, here’s just a taste based on the highlights from my perspective at the show.

1. SpaceX aims for 2022 Moon landing for Starship

SpaceX timelines are basically just incredibly optimistic dreams, but it’s still worth paying attention to what timeframes the company is theoretically marching towards, because they do at least provide some kind of baseline from which to extrapolate actual timelines based on past performance.

There’s a reason SpaceX wants to send its newest there that early, however – beyond being aggressive to motivate the team. The goal is to use that demonstration mission to set up actual cargo transportation flights, to get stuff to the lunar surface ahead of NASA’s planned 2024 human landing.

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2. Starlink satellite service should go live next year

More SpaceX news, but significant because it could herald the beginning of a new era where the biggest broadband providers are satellite constellation operators. SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell says that the company’s Starlink broadband service should go live for consumers next year. Elon also used it this week to send a tweet, so it’s working in some capacity already.

3. NASA’s Jim Bridenstine details how startups will be able to participate in the U.S. mission to return to the Moon to stay

Bridenstine did a lot of speaking and press opportunities at IAC this year, which makes sense since it’s the first time the U.S. has hosted the show in many years. But I managed to get one question in, and the NASA Administrator detailed how he sees entrepreneurs contributing to his ambitious goal of returning to the Moon (this time to set up a more or less permanent presence) by 2024.

4. Virgin Galactic goes public

Virgin Galactic listed itself on the New York Stock Exchange today, and we got our very first taste of what public market investors think about space tourism and commercial human spaceflight. So far, looks like they… approve? Stock is trading up about 2 percent as of this writing, at least.

5. Bezos announces a Blue Origin-led space dream team

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos got a first-ever IAC industry award during the show (it has an actual name but it seems pretty clear it’s an invention designed to fish billionaire space magnates to the stage). The award is fine, but the actual news is that Blue Origin is teaming up with space frenemies Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper – old and new space partnering to develop a full-featured lunar lander system to help get payloads to the surface of the Moon.

6. Rocket Lab is developing a ride-share offering for the Moon and more

Launch startup Rocket Lab has become noteworthy for being among the extremely elite group of new space companies that is actually launching payloads to orbit for paying customers. It wants to do more, of course, and one of its new goals is to adapt its Photon payload delivery spacecraft to bring customer satellites and research equipment to the Moon – and eventually beyond, too. Why? Customer demand, according to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.

7. Europe’s space tech industry is heading for a boom

It seems like there’s a lot of space startup activity the world over, but Europe has possibly more than its fair share, thanks in part to the very encouraging efforts of the multinational European Space Agency. (Extra Crunch subscription required.)

 


0

SpaceX intends to offer Starlink satellite broadband service starting in 2020

03:08 | 25 October

SpaceX will look to launch its Starlink service for consumers sometime next year, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell confirmed at a media roundtable meeting at the company’s offices in Washington during the International Astronautical Congress this week (via SpaceNews). Shotwell, who also appeared on stage at the event to share some updates around SpaceX’s recent progress across the company, told reporters present that in order to make the date, it’ll need to launch between six and eight different grouped payloads of Starlink satellites, a number that includes the batch that went up in May of this year.

All told, SpaceX has shared previously that it’ll need 24 launches in order to make the constellation global, and it also shared at that time that it intends to start with service in the Northern United States and parts of Canada beginning next year. Though 24 launches will provide full global coverage, Shotwell told media that it’ll still be doing additional launches after that in order to expand and improve coverage.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell

In fact, SpaceX recently filed paperwork to launch as many as 30,000 satellites in addition to the 12,000 it has already gotten permission to put up, for a total constellation size of up to 42,000. A SpaceX spokesperson previously described this as “taking steps to responsibility scale Starlink’s total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users’ anticipated needs” in a statement provided to TechCrunch.

Owning and operating a global broadband satellite constellation could be a considerable revenue driver for SpaceX, and an important product pillar upon which the company can rely for recurring profit as it pursues its more ambitious programs, including eventual Mars launch services. Setting up the satellite constellation, especially at the scale intended, will definitely be a cost-intensive process on its own, but SpaceX is looking to its product developments like its Starship, which will be able to take much more cargo to orbit in terms of payload capacity, to reduce its own, and customer launch costs over time.

Shotwell also told reporters at the gathering that the company is already testing Starlink connectivity for U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory use, and while she didn’t reveal consumer pricing, did note that many in the U.S. pay $80 for service that is sub-par already, per SpaceNews.

 


0

Elon Musk tweets using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet

13:22 | 22 October

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk used an internet connection provided by his company’s Starlink constellation of broadband satellites early on Tuesday AM. Musk used the network in place with the Starlink satellites already in orbit to send a simple tweet, declaring that he’d done just that.

Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious project to launch and operate its own network of broadband satellites, which will then provide broadband connectivity on a global level, including to areas which did not previously have reliable access to a high-speed internet connection.

This month, SpaceX signalled its intent to put as many as 30,000 more Starlink satellites into orbit, on top of a previously planned 12,000. The company is making the preparations it requires to address very strong demand, it says, and so it’s looking down the road at how large the network of small satellites potentially has to grow in order to serve all potential customers reliably.

In May 2019, SpaceX sent up its first 60 operational satellites  after launching a couple of prototypes last year. The satellites will work in tandem with ground stations that receive and convert the signal, which will be roughly the size of a pizza box, based on previously comments made by Musk.

 


0

SpaceX files paperwork to launch up to 30,000 more Starlink global internet satellites

01:50 | 16 October

SpaceX has filed documents with the International Telecommunication Union, which governs international use of global bandwidth, to launch up to 30,000 more satellites for its Starlink global broadband constellation, SpaceNews reports. That’s on top of the 12,000 it already has permission to launch. Why so many? SpaceX says that it’s about ensuring its network can meet anticipate demand “responsibly.”

“As demand escalates for fast, reliable internet around the world, especially for those where connectivity is non-existent, too expensive or unreliable, SpaceX is taking steps to responsibly scale Starlink’s total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users’ anticipated needs,” wrote a SpaceX spokesperson in an emailed statement to TechCrunch.

The ITU filing doesn’t mean SpaceX is launching 30,000 satellites tomorrow: In fact, the company is looking to launch likely only a few hundred in the coming year. But SpaceX is anticipating big increases in the demand for low-latency and high-capacity broadband globally, and its initial deployment plans only cover a fraction of that demand. Plus, given the increased interest in providing communications from orbit, there’s bound to be a growing rush on spectrum over the next few years.

Starlink will originally set out to provide service in the northern U.S., as well as parts of Canada, beginning as early as next year when the network goes live. The plan is to then scale the network to global coverage over the course of around 24 launches of Starlink satellites. It’s betting that it’ll need to scale by adding on nodes opportunistically to address demand, especially since most current coverage demand models don’t take into account regions that are getting broadband access for the first time.

SpaceX is also priming Starlink for high-traffic operation (though the total constellation won’t all be operating in the same orbital region, it’ll still be a considerable addition to the orbital population relative to the roughly 8,000 objects that have been launched to space to date – in total). The measures SpaceX is taking to deal with traffic include building in automated collisions avoidance systems, structure de-orbiting plans, information sharing about orbital routes for their satellites and more, and the company says it’s meeting or exceeding the industry standards that have been established thus far around this.

To address the concerns of astronomers, SpaceX is also turning the base or Earth-facing portion of all future Starlink satellites back, which should help address concerns of space watchers who are concerned about the impact that large constellations will have on stellar observation and research. The company will also take steps to adjust satellite orbits where it’s shown that its constellation is impeding serious scientific pursuit.

Starlink launched its first 60 satellites back in May, and the plan is that each roughly 500 lb satellite will work in tandem with the others to communicate with ground stations that end users will then be able to connect to in order to get a broadband network signal.

 


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13 ways to screw over your internet provider

21:24 | 2 September

Internet providers are real bastards: they have captive audiences whom they squeeze for every last penny while they fight against regulation like net neutrality and donate immense amounts of money to keep on lawmakers’ good sides. So why not turn the tables? Here are 13 ways to make sure your ISP has a hard time taking advantage of you (and may even put it on the defensive).

Disclosure: Verizon, an internet provider guilty of all these infractions, owns TechCrunch, and I don’t care.

1. Buy a modem and router instead of renting

The practice of renting a device to users rather than selling it or providing it as part of the service is one of the telecommunications industry’s oldest and worst. People pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars over years for equipment worth $40 or $50. ISPs do this with various items, but the most common item is probably the modem.

This is the gadget that connects to the cable coming out of your wall, and then connects in turn (or may also function as) your wireless and wired router. ISPs often provide this equipment at the time of install, and then charge you $5 to $10 per month forever. What they don’t tell you is you can probably buy the exact same item for somewhere between $30 and $100.

The exact model you need will depend on your service, but it will be listed somewhere, and they should tell you what they’d provide if you ask. Look online, buy a new or lightly used one, and it will have paid for itself before the year is out. Not only that, but you can do stuff like upgrade or change the software on it all you want, because it’s yours. Bonus: The ISP is limited in what it can do to the router (like letting other people connect — yes, it’s a thing).

2. Avoid service calls, or if you can’t, insist they’re free

I had an issue with my Comcast internet a while back that took them several visits from a service tech to resolve. It wasn’t an issue on my end, which was why I was surprised to find they’d charged me $30 or so every time the person came.

If your ISP wants to send someone out, ask whether it’s free, and if it isn’t, tell them to make it free or ask if you can do it yourself (sometimes it’s for really simple stuff like swapping a cable). If they charge you for a visit, call them and ask them to take it off your bill. Say you weren’t informed and you’ll inform the Better Business Bureau about it, or take your business elsewhere, or something. They’ll fold.

When someone does come…

3. Get deals from the installer

If you do end up having someone come out, talk to them to see whether there are any off the record deals they can offer you. I don’t mean anything shady like splitting cables with the neighbor, just offers they know about that aren’t publicized because they’re too good to advertise.

A lot of these service techs are semi-independent contractors paid by the call, and their pay has nothing to do with which service you have or choose. They have no reason to upsell you and every reason to make you happy and get a good review. Sometimes that means giving you the special desperation rates ISPs withhold until you say you’re going to leave.

And as long as you’re asking…

4. Complain, complain, complain

This sounds bad, but it’s just a consequence of how these companies work: The squeaky wheels get the grease. There’s plenty of grease to go around, so get squeaking.

Usually this means calling up and doing one of several things. You can complain that service has been bad — outages and such — and ask that they compensate you for that. You can say that a competing ISP started offering service at your location and it costs $20 less, so can they match that. Or you can say your friend just got a promotional rate and you’d like to take advantage of it… otherwise you’ll leave to that phantom competitor. (After all, we know there’s often little or no real competition.)

What ISPs, and, more importantly, what their customer service representatives care about is keeping you on as a customer. They can always raise rates or upsell you later, but having you as a subscriber is the important thing.

Note that some reps are more game than others. Some will give you the runaround, while others will bend over backwards to help you out. Feel free to call a few times and do a bit of window shopping. (By the way, if you get someone nice, give them a good review if you get the chance, usually right after the call or chat. It helps them out a lot.) Obviously you can’t call every week with new demands, so wait until you think you can actually save some money.

Which reminds me…

5. Choose your service level wisely

ISPs offer a ton of choices, and make it confusing on purpose so you end up picking an expensive one just to be sure you have what you need. The truth is most people can probably do pretty much everything they need on the lowest tier they offer.

A 1080p Netflix stream will work fine on a 25 Mbps connection, which is what I have. I also work entirely online, stream high-def videos at a dozen sites all day, play games, download movies and do lots of other stuff, sometimes all at the same time. I think I pay $45 a month. But rates like mine might not be advertised prominently or at all. I only found out when I literally asked what the cheapest possible option was.

That said, if you have three kids who like to watch videos simultaneously, or you have a 4K streaming setup that you use a lot, you’ll want to bump that up a bit. But you’d be surprised how seldom the speed limit actually comes into play.

To be clear, it’s still important that higher tiers are available, and that internet providers upgrade their infrastructure, because competition and reliability need to go up and prices need to come down. The full promise of broadband should be accessible to everyone for a reasonable fee, and that’s still not the case.

6. Stream everything because broadcast TV is a joke

Cord-cutting is fun. Broadcast TV is annoying, and getting around ads and air times using a DVR is very 2005. Most shows are available on streaming services of some kind or another, and while those services are multiplying, you could probably join all of them for well under what you’re paying for the 150 cable channels you never watch.

Unless you really need to watch certain games or news shows as they’re broadcast, you can get by streaming everything. This has the side effect of starving networks of viewers and accelerating the demise of these 20th-century relics. Good ones will survive as producers and distributors of quality programming, and you can support them individually on their own merits. It’s a weird transitional time for TV, but we need to drop-kick them into the future so they’ll stop charging us for a media structure established 50 years ago.

Something isn’t available on a streaming service? 100 percent chance it’s because of some dumb exclusivity deal or licensing SNAFU. Go pirate it for now, then happily pay for it as soon as it’s made available. This method is simple for you and instructive for media companies. (They always see piracy rates drop when they make things easy to find and purchase.)

This also lets you avoid certain fees ISPs love tacking onto your bill. I had a “broadcast TV fee” on my bill despite not having any kind of broadcast service, and I managed to get it taken off and retroactively paid back.

On that note…

7. Watch your bill like a hawk

Telecoms just love putting things on your bill with no warning. It’s amazing how much a bill can swell from the quoted amount once they’ve added all the little fees, taxes and service charges. What are they, anyway? Why not call and ask?

You might find out, as I did, that your ISP had “mistakenly” been charging you for something — like equipment — that you never had nor asked for. Amazing how these lucrative little fees tend to fall through the cracks!

Small charges often increase and new ones get added as well, so download your bill when you get it and keep it somewhere (or just keep the paper copies). These are really handy to have when you’re on the phone with a rep. “Why wasn’t I informed my bill would increase this month by $50?” “Why is this fee more now than it was in July?” “Why do I pay a broadcast fee if I don’t pay for TV?” These are the types of questions that get you discounts.

Staying on top of these fees also means you’ll be more aware when there are things like mass refunds or class action lawsuits about them. Usually these have to be opted into — your ISP isn’t going to call you, apologize and send a check.

As long as you’re looking closely at your bill…

8. Go to your account and opt out of everything

When you sign up for broadband service, you’re going to get opted into a whole heap of things. They don’t tell you about these, like the ads they can inject, the way they’re selling this or that data or that your router might be used as a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

You’ll only find this out if you go to your account page at your ISP’s website and look at everything. Beyond the usual settings like your address and choice of whether to receive a paper bill, you’ll probably find a few categories like “privacy” and “communications preferences.”

Click through all of these and look for any options to opt out of stuff. You may find that your ISP has reserved the right to let partners email you, use your data in ways you wouldn’t expect and so on. It only takes a few minutes to get out of all this, and it deprives the ISP of a source of income while also providing a data point that subscribers don’t like these practices.

9. Share your passwords

Your friend’s internet provider gets him streaming services A, B and C, while yours gives you X, Y and Z. Again, this is not about creators struggling to get their content online, but rather all about big media and internet corporations striking deals that make them money and harm consumers.

Share your (unique, not reused!) passwords widely and with a clean conscience. No company objects when you invite your friends over to watch “Fleabag” at your house. This just saves everyone a drive!

10. Encrypt everything and block trackers

One of the internet companies’ many dirty little deals is collecting and selling information on their customers’ watching and browsing habits. Encrypting your internet traffic puts the kibosh on this creepy practice — as well as being good security.

This isn’t really something you can do too much to accomplish, since over the last few years encryption has become the rule rather than the exception, even at sites where you don’t log in or buy anything. If you want to be sure, download a browser plug-in like HTTPS everywhere, which opts you into a secure connection anywhere it’s available. You can tell it’s secure because the URL says “https://” instead of “http://” — and most browsers have other indicators or warnings as well.

You should also use an ad blocker, not necessarily to block ads that keep outlets like TechCrunch alive (please), but to block trackers seeded across the web by companies that use sophisticated techniques to record everything you do. ISPs are among these and/or do business with them, so everything you can do to hinder them is a little mud in their eye.

Incidentally there are lots of ways you can protect your privacy from those who would invade it — we’ve got a pretty thorough guide here.

11. Use a different DNS

Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

On a similar note, most ISPs will usually be set up by default with their own “Domain Name Service,” which is the thing that your browser pings to convert a text web URL (like “techcrunch.com”) to its numerical IP address.

There are lots of these to choose from, and they all work, but if you use your ISP’s, it makes it much easier for them to track your internet activity. They also can block certain websites by refusing to provide the IP for content they don’t like.

TechCrunch doesn’t officially endorse one, but lots of companies offer free, fast DNS that’s easy to switch to. Here’s a good list; there are big ones (Google, Cloudflare), “open” ones (OpenDNS, OpenNIC) and others with some niche features. All you need to do is slot those two numbers into your internet configuration, following the instructions they provide. You can change it back at any time.

Setting up a VPN is another option for very privacy-conscious individuals, but it can be complicated. And speaking of complicated…

12. Run a home server

This is a bit advanced, but it’s definitely something ISPs hate. Setting up your home computer or a dedicated device to host a website, script or service seems like a natural use of an always-on internet connection, but just about everyone in the world would rather you sign up for their service, hosted on their hardware and their connection.

Well, you don’t have to! You can do it on your own. Of course, you’ll have to learn how to run and install a probably Unix-based server, handle registry stuff, install various packages and keep up to date so you don’t get owned by some worm or bot… but you’ll have defied the will of the ISP. That’s the important thing.

13. Talk to your local government

ISPs hate all the things above, but what they hate the most by far is regulation. And you, as a valued citizen of your state and municipality, are in a position to demand it. Senators, representatives, governors, mayors, city councils and everyone else actually love to hear from their constituency, not because they desire conversation but because they can use it to justify policy.

During the net neutrality fight, a constant refrain I heard from government officials was how much they’d heard from voters about the issue and how unanimous it was (in support, naturally). A call or email from you won’t sway national politics, but a few thousand calls or emails from people in your city just might sway a local law or election. These things add up, and they do matter. State net neutrality policies are now the subject of national attention, and local privacy laws like those in Illinois are the bane of many a shady company.

Tell your local government about your experience with ISPs — outages, fees, sneaky practices or even good stuff — and they’ll file it away for when that data is needed, such as renegotiating the contracts national companies sign with those governments in order to operate in their territories.

Internet providers only do what they do because they are permitted to, and even then they often step outside the bounds of what’s acceptable — which is why rules like net neutrality are needed. But first people have to speak out.

 


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AT&T’s CEO of Communications, John Donovan, to retire in October

22:33 | 26 August

John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, announced today his plans to retire effective October 1, 2019. Donovan has for the past two years led AT&T’s largest business unit, which services 100 million mobile, broadband and pay-TV customers in the U.S., as well as millions of business customers, including nearly all the Fortune 1000.

The news comes amid several big changes in that business unit itself, and more in the broader telecom industry.

For starters, AT&T had just rebranded its over-the-top streaming service DIRECTV NOW to AT&T TV NOW, and  just last week rolled out a brand-new TV service, AT&T TV, in 10 test markets.

While DIRECTV NOW (aka AT&T TV NOW) is meant to compete with other over-the-top streaming services like Dish’s Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and others, the new AT&T TV is a more conventional — though still “over-the-top” — option that can work with any broadband connection.

However, it locks in customers to two-year contracts, requires a set-top box, and has packages that range from $60-$80 per month, much like a traditional TV subscription.

Elsewhere at AT&T, its WarnerMedia division is working a streaming service of its own, HBO Max, which is meant to battle more directly with premium offerings, like Disney+ or Apple TV+, for example. AT&T also operates a low-cost streaming service, Watch TV.

And the company continues to offer pay-TV offerings like DIRECTV (satellite service) and U-verse (cable).

It seems AT&T is due to consolidate these efforts at some point, and Donovan’s departure could signal some changes on that front, perhaps. Plus, as The WSJ reported, Donovan and WarnerMedia head John Stankey had a strained relationship at times. That could because HBO Max will end up competing with other AT&T offerings and services, the report suggested.

In addition to its various streaming ambitions, AT&T is also starting to roll out 5G, a move Donovan spearheaded. The company is also preparing for competition from new players, including what arises from a T-Mobile/Sprint merger, and from Dish’s plans to enter the wireless market.

Donovan had been CEO of AT&T Communications for two years, after having originally joined the company as CTO in 2008. Prior to his CEO role starting in July 2017, he had been promoted to AT&T’s Chief Strategy Officer and Group President—AT&T Technology and Operations.

He had also previously worked at Verisign, Deloitte Consulting, and InCode Telecom Group.

Donovan, 58, was nearing the company’s retirement age of 60, but his departure was still unexpected, The WSJ also said.

“It’s been my honor to lead AT&T Communications during a period of unprecedented innovation and investment in new technology that is revolutionizing how people connect with their worlds,” said John Donovan, in a statement. “All that we’ve accomplished is a credit to the talented women and men of AT&T, and their passion for serving our customers. I’m looking forward to the future – spending more time with my family and watching with pride as the AT&T team continues to set the pace for the industry.”

“JD is a terrific leader and a tech visionary who helped drive AT&T’s leadership in connecting customers, from our 5G, fiber and FirstNet buildouts, to new products and platforms, to setting the global standard for software-defined networks,” added Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO. “He led the way in encouraging his team to continuously innovate and develop their skill sets for the future. We greatly appreciate his many contributions to our company’s success and his untiring dedication to serving customers and making our communities better. JD is a good friend, and I wish him and his family all the best in the years ahead.”

Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon by way of Verizon Media Services. This does not influence our reporting. 

 


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